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Ubuntu for Smartphones Hands-On!

by Todd Haselton | January 8, 2013January 8, 2013 7:30 pm PST

We stopped by Canonical’s booth last night to briefly check out Ubuntu for smartphones. As a quick reminder, this is very different than Ubuntu for Android, which provides an Ubuntu desktop experience but not an actual Ubuntu smartphone experience. In other words, it’s a completely brand new user interface that’s different from Android, Windows Phone 8, BlackBerry 10 and iOS. Is there room for a fifth competitor?

I hope so. I want there to be, because I really like what Canonical—Ubuntu’s parent company—is doing here. The interface, even in an alpha testing stage, is super smooth and clean. You can quickly switch from contacts to apps by dragging your finger across the top of the page. Plus, you won’t have to wait for thousands of applications because it runs HTML5-based apps — that means Facebook, Twitter and other popular software programs are already available.

Ubuntu for smartphones isn’t just about the mobile experience though. In fact, the whole idea is that you can plug in a monitor and use a complete Ubuntu desktop experience. That means installing full Ubuntu applications, surfing the web with a keyboard and mouse, working in OpenOffice and so much more. It’s incredible.

My fear is that Ubuntu for smartphones may only be for a niche audience, only because the market is super crowded right now. That will all depend on who Canonical can sign on as a hardware partner, though. Imagine if Samsung or HTC took a swing with an Ubuntu phone? Trust me, I’m already drooling.

Oh, and before I forget. There seemed to be confusion on exactly when Ubuntu for smartphones will ship on devices. I asked and the answer was that 2013 is possible, as we first reported, but that Q1 2014 is the current goal.

Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...